Guest Column | June 21, 2017

Applying Research Locally For Nutrient Removal, Resource Recovery, And More


The Water Environment & Reuse Foundation recently offered two workshops at the Florida Water Resources Conference 2017 showing the applicability of its research findings in Florida. The first workshop outlined research findings from WE&RF’s nutrient portfolio, sharing six years of findings that are the most applicable to Florida. WE&RF’s nutrient removal challenge funded research to provide credible and scientifically-defensible information for regulators, designers, and operators facing increasingly stringent nutrient effluent discharge limits in practices associated with nutrient characterization and selection of sustainable, cost-effective processes to meet nutrient limits.

It is anticipated that Florida will significantly increase its use of reclaimed water in the coming years and the interest in resource recovery is rising. The research findings were applied to explain how to engage in reclaimed water reuse in nutrient impaired waters, using data from more than 30 projects. Nutrients can impair surface waters and reuse irrigation load impacts are not clearly understood relative to other sources. This body of WE&RF research seeks to help agencies meet receiving waterbody requirements and other wastewater treatment goals.

Currently in Florida, conventional permitting does not meet nitrogen criteria and occasionally comes close to meeting phosphorus criteria. This deterministic permitting approach is based on unlikely critical conditions and excludes effluent variability and treatment reliability. Performance reliability in nutrient removal is of particular importance as discharge limits become increasingly stringent and the need to recover some of the associated resources inherent in water treatment increases. WE&RF research findings can aid an adaptive management approach that provides site-specific and gradual improvements, as well as support regulations for federally-based nutrient technology standards. A technological approach to monitoring nutrient loads allows for specific measurement concentration and a dynamic method for permit limits. 

The session featured discharge permitting challenges and technical and optimization challenges. The presentation centered on reclaimed water reuse in nutrient-impaired waters, an issue relevant to Florida, referencing in-depth science, workshop outcomes, and compendiums. The findings connected water quality objectives for nutrient pollution control to reasonable permitting approaches and operational strategies. Nutrient removal findings are contributing to the improved design of nitrogen and phosphorus removal processes, while also contributing to development of scientifically-based regulatory and permitting processes.

A second WE&RF workshop showcased several progressive Florida utilities that are advancing both direct potable reuse (DPR) and indirect potable reuse (IPR) to meet their future water supply needs, targeting local leaders to illustrate the applicability of research findings to the state.

Opportunities to provide information that is region-specific are important for regional water environment associations and other water organizations to learn about new ways to improve facility operations. Facilities can learn directly how research findings can improve their operations. Similar events can be conducted in different locations across the country with varied interests in water reuse and reclamation.

Image credit: "Florida wetlands" U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Follow © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: